During the month of September I took part in an evening class on photography. The class was mainly geared to those interested in portrait photography, but I thought I might be able to pick up a few tips here and there, in particular with regards to lighting, as the daylight hours begin to dwindle here in these northern parts. I was the black sheep in the class, being the only one with an interest in food photography. However there were quite a few other participants with specialised areas of interest and our tutor was great at giving us all individual advice.
As part of the course we had to complete a small photography project. Mine was to take a series of 5 photographs that together told a story. I’d been recommended to try and emulate the style of a favourite photographer for this assigment. I love the photos by Aran Goyoaga of Canelle et Vanille fame and used her work as inspiration in some of the below shots. (I hope they don’t seem too much like a cheap copy of a Gucci handbag).
This project was nicely timed with plum season being upon us, so I decided to grab that fruit and run with it. Enjoy!
Plum Bakewell Tart
a knob of butter
100g vanilla sugar
¼ teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cornflour, dissolved in 1 tablespoon cold water
50g almonds, blanched and sliced (or use the flaked ones you can buy)
For the frangipane
285g blanched whole almonds
50g plain flour
1 vanilla pod
250g unsalted butter, cubed
250g caster sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
For the shortcrust pastry
500g plain flour
100g icing sugar
250g cold butter, cut into cubes
zest of 1 lemon
2 large eggs, beaten
a splash of milk
flour for dusting
Grease a tart tin or dish with the butter and make the pastry. Sieve the flour and icing sugar into a bowl. Using your hands, work the cubes of butter into the flour and sugar until you have a fine, crumbly mixture. Mix in the lemon zest. Add the eggs and milk to the mixture and work it together until you have a ball of dough. Flour it lightly, wrap it in clingfilm and put into the fridge to rest for about half an hour.When you have your ball of dough, wrap it in clingfilm and place it in the fridge to rest for about half an hour. Once the pastry has rested, remove it from the frdige and roll it out onto a floured surface. Line the tart dish with the rolled out pastry, pressing it gently into place. Put it in the freezer for an hour.
Meanwhile, make the frangipane. Blitz the blanched whole almonds (to blanche the almonds yourself leave the almonds in a bowl of hot water for 15-20 minutes and then peel the skins off) in a food processor until you have a fine powder and transfer this to a bowl with the flour. Halve the vanilla pod lengthways and scrape out the seeds, using the back of a knife. (Mix the seeds with a little sugar to separate them if need be). Now blitz the butter, sugar and vanilla seeds until light and creamy. Put the almond mixture back into the food processor with the lightly beaten eggs and whiz until completely mixed and smooth. Place in the fridge to firm up for about half an hour.
Heat the oven to 180° C/350° F and bake the pastry case for about 10 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove from the oven, leaving the oven on.
Halve the plums and remove the stones. Finely chop half of them and place in a saucepan with the vanilla sugar and the spices. Cook gently until softened and the consistency is jam-like. Then stir in the cornflour and simmer until thickened.
While the plums are cooking, cut the remaining plums halves into quarters, sprinkle them with icing sugar and leave for 5 minutes – this will make them juicy and shiny. Spoon the warm plum jam into the pastry case, reserving a little for serving, and smooth it out across the bottom. Spread the frangipane over the plum jam. Arrange the plums on the surface of the frangipane, pressing them in lightly. Scatter the sliced/flaked almonds over the top. Bake the tart in the oven for about an hour. It’s a good idea to place the tart dish on a piece of baking parchment as it has a tendency to bubble over – at least mine did! Once cooked through and golden on top, remove the tart from the oven and leave it to cool.
Before serving sieve some icing sugar over the top of the tart. Serve with whipped cream or crème fraiche and some of the leftover jam.
If you end up with too much pastry you could make these little jammy tarts – they are simply a round of pastry with a blob of the plum jam and half a plum on top